Pattern: Bella Paquita by Marnie MacLean
Yarn: Rowan Calmer, 5 skeins
Needles: US 8 / 5 mm
Size: Custom. About 5″ negative ease – see below.
The pattern called for a worsted weight yarn, and I was using a DK-weight yarn, so my gauge was considerably different from the pattern specs. I would have pretty much followed the pattern for the “medium” size, modifying for row gauge, but as it turned out, the “medium” pattern charts were smaller than the “small” size. So I totally recharted the pattern for the top, going in between the small and large sizes.
I wanted to be able to wear it with or without a bra or camisole, so I didn’t want the lace to be too low, or too wide. So I knitted the top so that the lace would start higher up, and knitted a lot more length for the piece above the body ribbing. However, it has a big tendency to ride up, so I think I should have made the shoulder pieces longer than I did. It’s fine when I first put it on, but then the ribbing on the body tends to creep up from the ribcage.
I didn’t do the waist shaping according to the pattern. I did decrease a few stitches for the waist, but not nearly as much as the pattern. Then I knitted straight for a few inches, and then increased for the hips.
I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough yarn to do the elbow-length sleeves, and I also wanted them to be a bit more fitted. So I totally ignored the sleeve charts and did my own. First I figured out how many stitches around I wanted the sleeves at the armhole. Then I used Pam Allen’s instructions in the Winter 2007 Interweave Knits to calculate the height of the sleeve cap, and graphed my own cap. Since I thought I might have to make the sleeves shorter than in the pattern, I decided to knit the sleeves top-down. I cast on the stitches for the top of the cap, and then did cable cast-ons and increases where I would have done bind-offs and decreases if I was knitting from the bottom up. After the sleeve cap was knitted, I joined the sleeve to work it in the round. After knitting an inch or so of it joined, I seamed the unfinished sleeve in place. Then I was able to try it on and check the fit of the sleeve – and if I ran out of yarn, I figured I could just knit the sleeves as long as possible before binding off. It turned out that I had plenty of yarn, so I was able to knit the sleeves to the elbow as in the pattern. I think the sleeves worked out great, so I’d definitely do this again if I was suffering from yarn shortage anxiety.
For the lace, the pattern has you graft the two sections of lace together in the back, and then do steeks at the shoulders to take in the excess fabric. I didn’t really like the idea of doing the steeks at the shoulders, especially when there would also be a graft. So I just overlapped the lace in the back, and unravelled the excess as much as I could. Then I just sewed the live stitches of each end down. I have a wedge-shaped section where there are two thicknesses of lace, but overall I think it’s probably better than having the seams from the steeks.
The Rowan Calmer is very nice, and it makes a very comfortable sweater, but the very different gauge made it much harder to get the fit I wanted. So I don’t recommend doing that unless you’re willing to rechart the pattern. However, since Marnie provides the pattern in chart form, it’s easier to do that than it would be with written instructions. Plus it’s easy to knit the pieces however you want – top to bottom, bottom to top, flat or in the round.
Calmer is very stretchy, so I found that I needed to have more negative ease than I would have with a different yarn. I measured the finished top, and it has 5″ of negative ease. I normally knit fitted tops with 2-3″ negative ease, but when I knitted this one with just a little negative ease, it seemed much too loose. For this top, I really wanted it to be VERY fitted. It came out slightly tighter than I would like it, so I think 4″ negative ease would probably have been perfect.